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Here's what Thursday's Soyuz launch failure means for space station astronauts

By Meghan Bartels
October 11, 2018, 10:13:10 PM EDT

The three astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station were supposed to welcome two new roommates today, but an anomaly a few minutes after launch sent those crewmembers speeding back to Earth in an emergency landing.

Both crewmembers (NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovichin) are safe, but the launch failure means that much more than just today's space station schedule will need to be reshuffled. NASA, the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and the International Space Station control team still have a whole lot of decisions to make about what to do next — not to mention an investigation to conduct into what went wrong.

iss crew

A group photo taken of the full International Space Station crew shortly before three astronauts left earlier this month.Credit: NASA

The Soyuz rocket and spacecraft are workhorse vehicles for Roscosmos. An uncrewed version of the Soyuz is used to launch automated Progress cargo ships to the space station.

"We have plenty of supplies on board the station to support the crew and they're going to continue to do work," NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries told Space.com. Given that the team no longer needs to help new astronauts settle in to life on the space station, the team is planning to bulk up their science work in the near future. Robotic cargo launches using U.S.-built resupply ships are also scheduled to deliver more supplies to the station in the next two months.

But the consequences of the failed launch will ripple through the space station's activities. Hague, one of the two crewmembers on today's launch, was scheduled to take part in two upcoming spacewalks on Oct. 19 and 25 to replace batteries attached to the outside of the space station.

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